Happy Pride Month! In celebration, we chatted with Mikhail Shneyder, President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as an owner of Nightingale College, an accredited, proprietary, post-secondary institution that specializes in nursing education, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is an experienced, visionary leader with a successful career of over 20 years of progressive management experience in health care services and post-secondary education for health professions. Through a generous gift to Haas, Mikhail and his husband also recently named the new Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons on campus.
Mikhail is originally from Belarus. His family immigrated to the US when he was 19. Coming to the US was an eye-opener. All his childhood imagination dreams about America vanished immediately. Mikhail went on to do odd jobs for a few years, including dressing up as Barney in Times Square. However, after passing the RN licensure exam, he started to practice nursing.
In this episode, Mikhail shares the unique story behind their move to the US, his early experiences after moving, fully realizing he’s gay, and the dark part of his journey into finding and accepting himself and overcoming the challenges along the way.
We also get to hear why Mikhail is passionate about healthcare, his reasons for going to business school, and how he got into education. He also talks about the mission and goals of Nightingale and its plans for the future.
On realizing that he’s gay
“I really didn’t understand. It wasn’t spoken at all. Growing up, I didn’t know the LGBT community even existed. It’s an interesting thing of identity with me finding that eventually. But I didn’t fully realize that I was gay until we moved to the States. And all of a sudden, it was like something smacking you in the face. I went like, ‘Wow. Oh, wow! Oh, it makes sense.’ All of this that I’ve been experiencing.”
Overcoming the darkness of finding his true self
“Climbing back out of what I described as darkness, really, took a long time. And as a human being, I think the biggest fear that one might have is fear of being in your own skin, fear of yourself. And so, for me, reconciling and journeying to self-acceptance and to my humanity, essentially, and recognizing it and learning about it and doing all of that. But it was many years of hard work, and everything from just becoming much healthier—from movement to meditation to all sorts of things—and then eventually arriving at this place of just peace.”
Why he is passionate about nursing
“I ended up being one of the caregivers to mom and learning through it all, started to understand what health really is and what health brings to an individual, a family, or a community, and the opposite of health, what illness does. And so, I became very passionate about it. It became absolutely clear that nursing is what I loved and nursing is what I have passion for, because of the care that it has at the heart of it because of what nurses can do for somebody who is on their worst day and supporting them, and nurturing them and allowing them and giving them the resources and tools and everything else and the support that’s needed for somebody to get better and to flourish.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:05] Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today, we’re joined by Mikhail Shneyder. He’s the President and CEO of Nightingale College out in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mikhail is also class of 2008 part of the Evening & Weekend program. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:24] Mikhail: All right. Thank you, Sean. Thanks for having me.
[00:27] Sean: Mikhail, I’d love to start these conversation just hearing about your background, especially people who are immigrants. So, I would love to hear your origin story, where you’re from and where you grew up.
[00:40] Mikhail: It’s quite a loaded origin story. I grew up in Belarus when it was part of former Soviet Union. Obviously, now it’s been on the news lately. And I’ve been in the states for close to 30 years now. And unfortunately, the situation in my homeland hasn’t improved any, as we’ve seen in the news lately. But for me, back then when I was growing up, I’m half ethnically Jewish. And it was tough growing up in the former Soviet Union being a Jew and having a Jewish last name. It was a tough proposition. I was born in the early ’70s. And it wasn’t as bad as things were for Jews for my grandparents earlier on, but I still got some brunt of constant bullying in school. And opportunities were very limited having the last name that I had.
And so, I was about 13. And I went to my parents and I asked, “Hey, I hear great things about America. Can we go to America? Because I hear people go there.” And they laughed and they said, “Sure, dear. It’s America, and when America calls, we’ll go.” And I said, “Well, really? What if I go ahead and figure out how we can do this, are we going to go?” And they said, “Yeah sure,” fully believing that would never happen, and give a boy a challenge. I went to the libraries. I talked to people who were looking at immigrating. Got the paperwork from the American Embassy, filled it out, brought it to my parents and said, “Hey, sign here.” It was all the ethnic persecution that this was based on and, again, constant bullying. I essentially told my story and I said, “Please, please, I can’t live here. I want to go there.”
And we sent it in. I sent it in. Put stamps on, and then forgot about it. Then, about five years later, America called. So, we got invited to an interview. And we were granted refugee status. And we had to leave within six months of receiving that permission. And it was tough for my parents leaving a bunch of their family behind. And they did it for us kids. I have a younger brother as well. Coming here to the States having nothing, essentially absolutely nothing, a few suitcases, a couple of thousand dollars, that’s all we had. And then building life from there and doing all sorts of odd jobs and learning the language, and getting to finally—four years into it, I was able to have enough language under my belt to sit for the nursing licensure exam in the States. I actually finished my nursing school right before leaving Belarus. So, I was a nurse but unlicensed. And then ’96 that came through, and then I got to practice nursing in the States and started building my life from there.
[03:32] Sean: Do you mind me asking, what did your parents do back in Belarus? And what did they do over here?
[03:39] Mikhail: I’ll preface this with the fact that they constantly tell me how thankful they are for that 13-year-old that pushed them and wouldn’t give up. I am persistent and resilient. So, they thanked me all the time. But they were both engineers back there. They were chemical engineers, both of them. And so, coming here, obviously, they couldn’t do that. My mom ended up finding a job as a bookkeeper and then progressed into accounting, all of that self-taught, essentially, or learned on the job, and did that for a couple of decades. And then my dad was managing inventory for this furniture showroom in New York. So, they lived in Brooklyn for quite a while. They moved to Salt Lake not long ago. So, they essentially sacrificed. They’re in their early 40s when we came to the States. And they made a lot of sacrifices. And those were end of career jobs for them. Initially, we did everything. And one of the jobs that my dad and I did, I remember very early on, being in New York, we somehow stumbled into this company that would dress us up as Barney, the purple dinosaur—
[05:03] Sean: The dinosaur?
[05:03] Mikhail: Yeah. —we knew nothing about. So, we would, in the heat of the summer in New York, standing on the street corner in Times Square. One of us would be Barney and the other one would be taking polaroid pictures and selling it to kids with parents that were passing by. So, that was one of the jobs that my dad did. My dad drove car service cab for a while. And he did all sorts of other things. But now, they’re able to travel the world and see the world and do stuff.
[05:40] Sean: It sounds like you guys first moved to New York, is that right?
[05:43] Mikhail: Yes. So, we landed there. And all my childhood imagination dreams about what America would be, of what New York would be vanished immediately. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It was early ’90s in New York. And it was dirty. And it smelled funky. So, I was quickly disillusioned. And then, being in my older teens, I was 19 when I came, and not having a great relationship with my dad at that time, so, I said, “You know what? I’m just going to go travel.” So, I have $40. And I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with $40 because I have a friend there. They actually immigrated a year prior to that. And so, I called her and I said, “Hey, can you house me for a bit while I look for a job?” “Yeah.” So, I moved to Milwaukee. And I spent about nine months there. And the first winter there was unbearable. And so, right after I thought out, I went back to New York and I spent some time there.
[06:51] Sean: That’s so funny. Being Pride Month, I do have to ask, growing up in Belarus, what were the sentiments towards LGBT individuals, on top of being Jewish, half-Jewish?
[07:10] Mikhail: Exactly. I think part of the bullying came from that, although, I really didn’t understand. It wasn’t spoken at all. Growing up, I didn’t know LGBT community even existed. It’s a interesting thing of identity with me finding that eventually. But I didn’t fully realize that I was gay until we moved to the States. And all of a sudden, it was like something smacking you in the face. I went like, “Wow. Oh, wow! Oh, it makes sense.” All of this that I’ve been experiencing. And I did, I dated a girl there in my teens.
[07:57] Sean: And it’s normal.
[07:58] Mikhail: Yeah, and for my parents. I didn’t even know that gay existed, let alone understand me and who I was. And so, obviously, the States helped with it. But going back to your question, the sentiment there, after the fall of the Soviet Union and going back and visiting, it is gay people are persecuted, and it is the public sentiment is not at all in favor. And even going and meeting somewhere or going to the clubs, the clubs are all underground. So, they use something that I never knew that existed. And so, going back and something that’s called face control, where, in order to get into the club, you have to come with somebody who already has been there and who can vouch for you essentially that this is a person permitted. So, gay people are persecuted, bullied, and beaten, and worse. And so, unfortunately, it still remains to this day.
As much as I thought that America would be that savior for me, it became even bigger and so much bigger afterwards that, after I figured it out, I could actually be myself, although I have other stories of journey to myself which are quite heartbreaking, essentially. I can talk a little bit about it. So, after I passed on my nursing licensure, and I was so excited to get my first job as a nurse in the States, and I didn’t want to live in New York any longer because I just wanted to escape the cold for a while. I just couldn’t stand the winters.
[09:49] Sean: I understand.
[09:49] Mikhail: And it was so hot on the summer. So cold in the winter and the snow dumped. In 1996, I remember there was a blizzard in the middle of the winter, and I had to walk into the snow for miles to go to work. And I was like, “Oh, no. As soon as this thaws out. I’m out of here.” So, I got my first nursing job in the States in Florida. So, I moved to Florida.
[10:10] Sean: Wow.
[10:11] Mikhail: Yeah, exactly. What a change, right? Not knowing anything about it, just knowing that it was much warmer. And I started working. I spent the vast majority of my nursing career in dialysis and nephrology. And so, I started working in a dialysis clinic and met some people. And this was my mid-20s. And life was just becoming great. And I wasn’t poor anymore. I could do one job and be able to pay for my living and all of that. And so, met some people, discovered drugs, which are not the greatest thing to do, but hey, what do you do when your prefrontal cortex is not fully formed yet?
[10:49] Sean: Exactly, yeah.
[10:50] Mikhail: You try things out. Anyways. So, long story short, a couple of years into it, I had a pretty bad experience with some psychedelics. And really, I was petrified coming out of it, didn’t really understand what was happening, then, for years, as a consequence of that, had panic attacks and things like that. But I thought, “Oh, wow.” I remember, for my grandparents who have survived the World War II and all the atrocities of it and witnessed just horrific stuff, I remember them. Although, religious practice was prohibited in the Soviet Union, they were able to keep up their traditions on their own. And when something tough came up, they always turn to their practice. And I thought, “Oh, great.” And to that point, I wasn’t religious at all. I didn’t follow anything. And I thought, I’ll try that. Maybe, that will help me with the fear and the anxiety that I’m experiencing, all of that. So, it happened to be, right down the street, there was a Southern Baptist Church that I stumbled into. And with all due respect to anybody with any practice, I introduced myself to the pastor and he asked me to tell him about myself. And I said, “Well, I’m a nurse, and I had this bad experience.” And then the next thing came out of my mouth and I said, “I’m gay.”
And wow, that turned dark pretty quickly. And so, I was immediately told that I was an abomination and I didn’t know what that meant. So, I had to look it up later. And that everything, all the bad things that I experienced in my life is because of essentially who I am. And it’s a simple solution, you only have to not be you. You have to denounce you in order then to find peace. And as you can imagine, peace wasn’t found through doing that. And so, I spent climbing back out of what I described as darkness, really, took a long time. And as a human being, I think the biggest fear that one might have is fear of being in your own skin, fear of you. And so, for me, again, journeying back and reconciling and journeying to self-acceptance and journeying to my humanity, essentially, and recognizing it and learning about it and doing all of that. But it was many years of hard work, and everything from just becoming much healthier—from movement to meditation to all sorts of things—and then eventually arriving at this place of just peace. And so, part of the reason I built Nightingale College, it was built as a deliberately developmental organization, which means we’ll look at human beings as human beings, recognizing that human beings carry all of the beauty of humanity with them and all of the fear of it and all of the things that we’re taught, like shame and doubt and constancy, which I have to deal with for a long time.
So, for me being able to build a company, actually, I tell everybody who comes through the doors and hundreds of collaborators now that, selfishly, I built it for me. I wanted a place where I could feel I belong as a human being no matter who you are. And that allows me, then, to explore me and for me to grow. Maslow said highest human motivation is growth. And so, we’ve built an entire company that’s built on those principles. It’s all about human flourishing and it’s all about allowing people to room for it and providing them resources. And again, recognizing each other as human beings when we’re at our best days and our worst days, we’re still human. And accepting failure as part of being human, part of growth, doing all of that.
Look, I would not be able to be today where I am and being able to build this organization. And obviously, for the learners it’s the same thing, Nightingale is all about creating access to nursing profession for those people who normally would be overlooked for it and not given an opportunity or a chance to do it and be it. And nursing is one of the best socioeconomic mobility vehicles in the nation.
And so, no matter where you come from, and no matter your socioeconomic background, if you can get there, if you can get that license, if you can grow and work in the profession, it’s an amazingly fulfilling contributive thing that you do. But it also allows you and your family and your community just to thrive. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. And without having those hardships in my life and hitting the bottom, essentially, I would not be here now. And so, all I look at my past is just an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, just gratitude to have experienced it, gratitude to have learned from it, gratitude for failing and then getting back up, and certainly gratitude for being alive, being able to contribute. And gratitude is part of Nightingale. And it’s organically developed over the years. This value statement is called EVOLVITUDE™. And it carries words, which have all of the meaning in the world for me, but for us as an organization, like love and kindness and forgiveness and trust and courage and all of these things that make humanity, it’s not even employ it when we let it shine as human beings in our organizations or in communities or with each other in relationships. It becomes the light just shines. And so, darkness parts.
[17:00] Sean: I do have to ask, what brought you to Haas? You were already a nurse. You already had the upper mobility. What pushed you to get further education, especially a business degree? I don’t know many nurses that get a business degree, which I think there probably should be more of.
[17:17] Mikhail: I think so, too. I think so, too. Nurses are entrusted with running organizations and being chiefs. And essentially, healthcare, per se, I truly believe, is in our hands of the nursing profession. And so, the more of us that would get business education, I think the better it would be. For me, again, there’s a story to that as well. So, when I first started working… Let me actually rewind a little further back to my childhood. When I was fairly young, I was five years old, my mom, unfortunately, she had a flu and she had to work. You know, Soviet Union. Didn’t take care of herself at all through this illness that could be dangerous, but she was fairly young and didn’t think anything of it. Was made to work. And then, as a complication of this flu, she somehow ended up with encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain. And so, she spent very long-time in the hospital ICU, was clinically dead a couple of times, and essentially afterwards, she survived through it. It’s a survivor family, really. Survived through it, but for several years after that, she was disabled to the point where she needed a lot of assistance with just daily living stuff. And debilitating headaches, and she was bedridden for a while.
My grandma helped quite a bit, but I ended up being one of the caregivers to mom and learning through it all that, starting to understand what health really is and what health brings to an individual, a family, or a community, and the opposite of health, what illness does. And so, I became very passionate about it. Again, when you were that young and continue doing something, it becomes part of you. And when time came to decide what I wanted to do I, I was like, “Oh, yeah, healthcare, medicine.” I didn’t quite know whether I wanted to be a doctor. And that’s what I thought. But then, after going into nursing school, it’s just what I thought would be a stepping stone to this medicine career. It became absolutely clear that nursing is what I loved and nursing is what I have passion for, because of the care that it has at the heart of it because of what nurses can do for somebody who is on their worst day and supporting them, and nurturing them and allowing them and giving them the resources and tools and everything else and the support that’s needed for somebody to get better and to flourish. And so, when I couldn’t wait to work in the profession and work as a nurse, and I got the job in dialysis, and in dialysis, nurses work with people who, end stage kidney disease, essentially, it’s a combination of multiple comorbidities and conditions that lead to that terminal illness, essentially. But if properly managed, people can thrive even with having end-stage renal disease, if all of their other co-morbidities are managed correctly. And this is a nurse’s job.
And so, I was so passionate about it. And it was amazing puzzles to solve. I’m working with patients and see them constantly and that continuity of care that’s there is absolutely incredible for me. Chronic care is just so fulfilling. But I started noticing looking around in some of my colleagues. They just didn’t have that same like, yay, let’s help these people flourish and thrive. And they would go through the motions and do their job and clock in and out and all of that, but not necessarily being as impassioned about the outcomes of the care that we provided together.
And so, that’s how my management career began. I started saying, “Oh, how can I affect this?” And I was like, “Of course, I’m going to become a supervisor. I’m going to tell people what to do.” And that was all going to be great, little did I know. And so, I essentially went into this full-on lobby campaign with my clinic director to promote me to a supervisor. I was like, “You don’t have to pay me anything more, but just give me the title.” And what I’ve discovered through that, that I had a knack for leadership and, perhaps, inspiring other people, and through this passion of mine motivating them and doing all of that, and a knack for turnarounds of outcomes and so on.
And so, I’ve done that, progressed from there, became a clinic director. And at a certain point, I’ve then worked for this company that moved me around their clinics in the Bay area in California. I moved to California then to do these turnarounds of clinics that were the patient outcomes weren’t great, the financial outcomes weren’t great, constant turnover, and things like that. And so, I was able to, over a period, I did that for about six years, to successfully turn around these four clinics. But I was exhausted, just absolutely exhausted by then. And I was like, “Well, what’s next?”
And the company, I went to them and said, “Hey, can I just get a regional management job? And then, I’ll maybe train other people how to do this, and then, hey, scale, we can scale this.” And they were like, “No, no, no. You and your bachelor’s degree, not enough. So, go get master’s.” And so, I started thinking about it some time ago. And Berkeley’s campus for me was a refuge. One of the things that I did as a kid and a teenager is ballroom dancing. And so, I discovered UC Berkeley’s team for ballroom way ahead of any applying to Haas or doing anything. I met this girl that was interested and she was part of the team. And then, I essentially became part of that team and competed and danced and all of this, and then, every time showing up on the campus. I would have this amazing feeling of connection to it somehow. It’s like this energetic thing that’s what was amazing to me. And then when I seriously started thinking about getting my graduate degree, I was like, “Berkeley is the place. I don’t want to go anywhere else,” and then, learning about Haas and researching and going to info sessions and so on. And it felt like the right fit. I know Haas is it.
[23:35] Sean: Nothing’s like Berkeley.
[23:36] Mikhail: I feel it, I totally feel it. So, I applied and I got a polite denial from Haas saying, “We don’t know what nursing school number two is. And we’re not sure about your background or your capabilities.” So, they suggest that I take a few UC Berkeley extension classes, like economics, macro, and then calculus, because apparently, the Soviet Union calculus, which was pretty intense, wasn’t that great for them, anyways. So, I applied the second time, and I got an interview this time. And I went and the interviewer sat across from me and she said, “Hey, many people want this. What do you want to do with this?” And I was like, “Change the world,” question mark in my hands beside question mark in my voice. And she was like, “Oh, that’s nice.” So, I got on the waitlist. I didn’t clear it.
So, the third time—I actually hired because I was ready to break through that darkness that I talked about yet earlier—so I hired a life coach to help me to both work through a couple of remaining self-things, but then also, to be able to determine what it is that I want to do with my life. And so, I got an interview the third time around. I could have sworn that we both were doing—interviewer and me—cartwheels around the room at the end of the 30 minutes because I was like, “I do. I want to change the world. And I think health is one of the most important pathways to that. So, wellness altogether, human wellness is what will help us.”
So, I got admitted. I loved, loved, just loved my experience at Haas. I learned so much. I came in at the same time that Dean Lyons got his interim role, and I was inspired by him talking about the unsustainable paths of today and how we can change things and bend these unsustainable paths and just create a better future and better everything, better world. And then, another amazing thing that Haas did for me, because again I was so tired from managing and turning around dialysis clinics and I didn’t know how to… like what’s next? I can see clearly the career path to this change the world idea. And so, career counseling at Haas, that was the last deciding factor as to what my career would turn out to be. And I was in the office the first day of enrollment. And they connected me with a career counselor. And I could have sworn when I went—we did a few sessions, and I was like, “This looks tarot cards or star maps. I don’t get any of this. What is this guy getting from bunch of exercises and so on?” And then I show up my fourth session. He said, “Hey, we’re not going to waste any more of Berkeley’s money. I figured it out.” I was like, “Well, what should I do?” And he just casually threw out, “Hey, have you ever thought of education as a career path?” And my mind was blown and I was like, “Thanks for nothing. I know nothing about education. How is it going to work?” And then he was like, “Just think about it.” And I reflected for a while. I gave a notice immediately of my job. And a couple of months later, I had my first job in education. And then the rest is history progressing and building better.
[27:02] Sean: Change the world through education.
[27:04] Mikhail: Yeah, and health.
[27:07] Sean: Yeah, and health. A couple of things, thank you so much for sharing that story about you applying. I think for any prospective students that are listening, there is a huge sense everybody, including myself, went through this feeling of imposter syndrome. Because, on one hand, you’re going to the business school. You’re going to a higher education, to your master’s, because you’re trying to figure out what it is that you want to do. But then, on the other hand, when you’re applying you have to exude this confidence that I know exactly what I’m going to do coming into this program. And it’s this really interesting situation that you get put in.
And then secondly, you and I share a very interesting relationship with Dean Lyons in that you caught him at the beginning, and I met him and caught him at the end. My second year, he was retiring. And so, as he was going out, I actually had the privilege of interviewing him. He was my 15th interview for this podcast. And just to recap, not that it’s not already codified in stone on campus, but really share with the world what the defining leadership principles are.
[28:20] Mikhail: Defining principles, yeah. And look, they weren’t quite there. They’re contextually right. And conceptually, he had them. I heard those things the first time I heard him speak. And he’s one of the most inspiring, I think, leaders that I have ever encountered. And then watching the words crystallize out of the ideas and those four things, not necessarily the same words, but all of the spirit behind them are all over Nightingale College and our organizational frameworks. And it is amazing. It’s like another part of gratitude is really being thankful to him.
[29:05] Sean: Well, I think on behalf of Haas, we had to be very thankful for you and your partner for recently donating for the MBA Lounge. Funny enough, I am sad because I missed it. I graduated in 2020. And so, I totally missed the lounge that you guys have put together, because back then it was the Pfeifle Café. For any, I guess, new students, the MBA Lounge itself was this dinky little office upstairs with a really worn-in couch and some lockers, some boxes. And so, you and your partner recently contributed to building this new MBA Lounge. And the only thing that I’ve actually seen of it is photos that my friends at Haas would send me, because occasionally, there’s this big screen TV. They would profile different alumni, and my photo would show up once in a while.
[30:04] Mikhail: Oh, nice.
[30:05] Sean: And they would just make fun of me and send me photos like, “Hey, we can’t get rid of you.” But it looked amazing. It looked amazing in the photo. So, thank you for this.
[30:15] Mikhail: They did an awesome job. My husband, Jim, and I, we’ve been together for almost 23 years and married for almost 15. First of all, he was so instrumental in everything that I’ve been able to do and the rock in my success and supporting me throughout all of it, and through Haas, going through school, and holding a full-time job, and doing all of that. We’re certainly fortunate. The idea of giving back has always been really important to us. And I’ve given back to the school. I started when I was a student because again, as I said, the enormous feeling of gratitude for the journey in Haas is such an important part of that journey and the learning and all of the doors that have opened for me eventually and all of the amazing people that I met and learned from and being able to draw from inspiration, and then build it. So, Pfeifle, it was a nice place. I spent many evenings sitting there, and they do my falafel. But I think the designers the architects and the builders have done an amazing, amazing job with the commons. And we’re so grateful to lend our names to it.
[31:44] Sean: I’m excited to go back and check it out. Everybody that I know have been like, “Have you checked out the new MBA Lounge?” And I’m like, “No, I have not.” I really need to go check it out. So, tell us what you’re up to at Nightingale and anything, as a Haasie, that we can help with.
[32:03] Mikhail: So, first of all, again, as I said earlier, I built or contributed to building because so many people have participated in this company, first and foremost, so I can find bigger meaning, I guess, and work, and also find a home, find a place where I feel that I belong, and I can mingle with other people without being afraid of being bullied or being blamed for my humanity every time I make an error, which, trust me, I still do.
[32:32] Sean: We all have. We still do.
[32:33] Mikhail: The big ideas guy, it’s always someone who works, someone who don’t. And it’s going back to my starting working in education without knowing anything about it. I was hired to build a nursing program at a brand-new campus for this private education system in California. And so, I came into it with my own notions of what it should be, and then quickly learned that public policy, accreditation and regulation, all of that don’t necessarily fully align with what I think it should be. As a matter of fact, very little of it made sense to me, especially on the accessibility side. I was like, well, why only those people who are a 4.0 GPA from really good secondary schools? Why is it only available to them? And why can’t community colleges figure out how to support their students who were not served as well by their neighborhood school because they were just in a poor community, come from a poor community, and their parents have not gone to college and all of that? Why can’t we figure out how to support them to actually to graduation, get to licensure, and then gain this socioeconomic mobility that I talked about earlier?
And so, I started challenging and questioning and challenging the status quo. And that’s one of those things that are near and dear to my heart. And so, I realized at a certain point, and I’ve progressed in my career in education a couple of different companies. And then, I was lucky enough to meet an investor who was as passionate about creating something that would increase access, both geographic access, socioeconomic access, demographic access, not only through education but through the profession. And so, Nightingale was built with that mission in mind, without diversified and available and skilled workforce in nursing, health of the population—you can look at the community population or nation or the world, really—we will not get there. And health is such, again, basic thing that is needed for everything else in human life to flourish. And so, Nightingale was built with that mission. And we continue pushing with that mission forward. Obviously, the college operates across the United States. We have enrollment on 40-plus states in our programs. We offer everything, from practical nursing program and the the step ladder approach, all the way through the graduate degrees. Or, if somebody has the opportunity and the time, the money, the whatever it is that they need in order to be able to go to a generic bachelor program right away, we offer that. It is essentially this education now through Nightingale is available to anyone, anywhere in the United States.
And that is the cool idea. And through our building foundational skills, somebody who’s secondary education and primary and secondary that we’re just not lucky enough to be born in the right community. I have failed them a bit. We have the tools. We have the support for them, which is free to them, essentially, to build up those skills to be able them to go to the college level coursework and continue with that. So, that’s where we are. And our organizational frameworks, the organic development that I’ve talked about, EVOLVITUDE™, but the organic development of, we call it the Core Seven Framework, which really centers and the vision of it, which is all about building better health and better humanity for a better world. And then the mission, really, is in elevating health and elevating education, elevating employment.
Because, to me, again, we spend so much of our lives at work. And if it’s unbearable for you and many employers, still, we just fail to recognize the humanity in people that are there and build organizations that support that humanity, not punish it, and develop it and allow for growth to happen. So, that’s the mission and, really, the pathway—what we call the pathway—in how we do it and how we’ve done it all along, is innovative design. So, the philosophy there is, again, questioning the status quo and then believing that everything that’s been invented can be reinvented.
[37:13] Sean: What I really found interesting was just the access that you provide. There was a quote that you were saying, “Revolutionizing access in nursing education where the curriculum can be done anywhere online.” But then the individual can then traveled to a hub once a semester to engage in supervised field experience, because I think that makes sense. It’s less limiting
[37:39] Mikhail: Yeah, absolutely. And the technology allows, and I got fascinated early on in my education career with game-based learning. And so, our learners, they each get Oculus goggles at home and they engage in virtual reality simulations. The efficacy of learning is incredible in that setting and something that a nurse may never encounter or, especially, nursing student, never encounter in nursing school otherwise, just relying on traditional delivery and education methods. All of a sudden, it opens up to them. And they can engage with the simulation over and over and over again, make different mistakes while their brain creates this new neuro pathways that allow them, then, in real situations to be so effective and get to the best possible outcome. So, that’s technology combined with pushing forward and resiliency, I guess, and persistence. And I said before, applying to Haas, it’s persistence and resilience my entire life. And that’s essentially how the company is growing and what we are becoming, essentially. It started as a college. And now, we’re expanding into the educational assets development like these virtual simulations, like I talked about. We’re expanding, essentially seeing ourselves now as A-to-Z nursing workforce developer for employers, both the front-end and then upskilling, reskilling, training new technologies, and doing all of that. So, yay.
[39:20] Sean: That’s amazing.
[39:22] Mikhail: The future is bright.
[39:23] Sean: That was going to be my last question, was, what are you looking forward to this year? But you kind of partially already answered that. But anything else that you’re looking forward to this year?
[39:32] Mikhail: Traveling. Perfect.
[39:35] Sean: That’s what everyone’s been saying.
[39:39] Mikhail: Being cooped up for a while, though we’ve traveled fairly for seeing the world quite a bit.
[39:44] Sean: Do you have any favorite destinations?
[39:47] Mikhail: Yeah, top three are definitely—again, I’m lucky enough to have experienced it, but African safari. We did a safari in Tanzania some years ago. And that was amazing. And Antarctica.
[40:02] Sean: Wow.
[40:03] Mikhail: Penguins are hilarious. And so, that was absolutely fantastic. And then, finally, I love French Polynesia. Just discovered actually, we just got certified as open water divers.
[40:15] Sean: Divers?
[40:16] Mikhail: On our recent show-up. And so, it’s amazing. I mean this planet is amazing
[40:23] Sean: Will you be going again anytime soon this year to French Polynesia?
[40:29] Mikhail: Yeah, we probably will. I just couldn’t get enough of manta rays. Fear of water, you know.
[40:37] Sean: I think I’ll be going to Tahiti in October.
[40:39] Mikhail: Oh, nice. Yes, enjoy. Have you been?
[40:41] Sean: I have not been. One of my buddies, he’s French. And so, he loves going there. So, he’s going there for his birthday. So, we’re going there with families and whatnot.
[40:50] Mikhail: Amazing place. And it’s just beautiful.
[40:56] Sean: The one thing he said he really liked about it was just the preservation of local culture. That’s something that he really appreciated there.
[41:03] Mikhail: Culture preserved. And a lot of many places there do work on environment preservation as well. There’s this place that I hear of that is off of Tahiti. And they have a science station where many universities, research universities, and marine bio stuff, they come there and they do their studies and experiments and all of that in hopes to preserve the planet and the oceans.
[41:32] Sean: Well, thank you so much, Mikhail, for coming on the podcast. It was a real pleasure having you on. And it was—this is sincere—just honored hearing your story.
[41:43] Mikhail: Well, thank you so much. And thanks for having me. Happy Pride, everybody. Together, we can build this better world. I still believe in it.
[41:51] Sean: Give more love.
[41:52] Mikhail: Yeah, exactly, more love.
[41:54] Sean: Love and respect.
[41:55] Mikhail: Well, thank you so much.
[41:58] Sean: Thanks, Mikhail.
[42:01] Outro: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas Podcast. Enjoyed our show today? Please remember to hit that Subscribe or Follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review.
You’re looking for more content? Please check out our website at haas.fm. That’s spelled H-A-A-S.F-M. There, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time. Go, bears.